As a Jewish kid growing up in the suburbs, I found Pesach a bit weird.
At first it sounded great a holiday, when God actually commanded me to eat! Baruch haShem! Praise the Lord and pass the gravy! That was one mitsvah I'd have no trouble obeying. In fact, more holidays like Pesach and I might decide to become a rabbi. Talent for eating was something I had in abundance, and I couldn't wait to show haShem what a potential yeshiva bocher I was!
And then I saw the food!
Oy, vey is mir!
Everything a kid can't stand was there on that decorative plate in front of me: Bitter herbs, like scullions and horseradish and stuff; a roasted egg, still in the shell, burned brown and inedible; a leg of lamb with no meat on it; and couple of square pieces of--matsah. Unleavened bread. There would be no products made with leaven, or that had even the potential of leavening, for eight whole, terrible days! All bread was out. And cookies and cake were out. Pasta was definitely out. And commercial snacks and candies were out. You name it, and it was out. Out, out, out!
OK. So this was a God with a sense of humor.
Had He given us this holiday in order to make us wish we were gentiles? If so, He was succeeding. I mean, not only did we get two thousand years of persecution, and the Holocaust and all that, but we had to eat stuff like this. When the goyyim had holidays, they got Christmas cookies and chocolate Easter eggs and stuff.
I only saw one egg. And it was burned almost beyond recognition.
This was a holiday designed to destroy anyone's appetite. Except the Romans, that is. No one can destroy an Italian's appetite. Back in the days of Herod and Pontius Pilate, when the Roman legions discovered (with horror, I'm sure) that the only bread served in Judea for eight days would be flat, round, crispy wafer-like things, they didn't despair. They just poured tomato sauce on top of it and invented Pizza. You have to hand it to them. They crucified a lot of people, but they knew what to do with food. Now they've invented stuffed crust. (I forgive them for everything!)
There was a long, stultifying service, which Dad chanted in Hebrew from the Hagadah. And then, since I was the youngest boy, I had to chant the "Four Questions": "Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh..." Totally humiliating!
But then Mom brought out the chicken soup, with kneidlach, and the delicious roasted chicken dinner, and it turned out okay after all.
Between all those cups of kosher wine and hot chicken soup, I'd become a little drowsy and head off to bed, wondering what in the world it was all about. A lot had been said in the Hagaddah about Mitsrayim, and how the Lord had delivered us from that place of pyramids and led us through the wilderness to the Promised Land. I'd seen pictures of the Egyptians in history books. They were all skinny and wore wigs and funny eye makeup, and walked with their wrists bent and their legs akimbo. If I'd lived in a place where people walked around like that, I'd want to be delivered, too! But that was all I got out of Pesach. That and a little tipsy from the Mogen David.
Decades later, after accepting
Yeshua haMashiach(Jesus Christ) as my Lord and Savior, and after having walked with Him for almost twenty years, I have the full understanding of what haShem was telling me in that Passover service. The rabbis who compiled the shulchan aruch over the centuries, limited its meaning to our deliverance from bondage in Mitsrayim. But Mitsrayim was merely a symbol of a greater bondage, the bondage to sin.
God had painted us a picture of our deliverance from the bondage of sin, through the sacrifice of Yeshua, and the shedding of His precious Blood. And He had painted this picture with food! The food told the entire story of our redemption from sin. It is not by scrupulous observance of Torah, although that is commendable, but only through the shed blood of Yeshua.
The maror, karpas, and
chazeret(the bitter herbs) were not only a reminder of the bitterness of slavery in Mitsrayim, but of the bitterness of life in a sinful world, a world where innocent babies starve to death, if they're not slaughtered in their mothers' wombs; where men fight senseless wars, drunk with hatred and greed; where teenage runaways become prostitutes, and drug-lords rule the streets; where the threat of nuclear desolation looms over our heads; where scientists play god with monkeys and sheep; and where people's hearts fail them for fear. When Adam fell, God said, "Cursed is the ground for your sake.There is the charoset, which was made to resemble the color of the bricks we were forced to make under the crack of the whip. And yet the charoset is sweet.
In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.
And thou shalt eat the herb of the field." (Genesis 3:17,18)
The bitter herb.
But there is more on the plate, Baruch Hashem.
Why sweet?That's where the
To remind us that there is yet hope
in the midst of our bondage.
Hope of salvation.
zeroa(the roasted shank-bone of a lamb) comes in. For the Hagaddah clearly tells us how the blood of a lamb, placed on the doorposts of every Hebrew dwelling, caused the Death Angel to "pass over" them. Not gemillut hasadim, not good deeds, which the prophet Isaiah said are filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). But only the blood of the lamb.
When I see the zeroa, I'm reminded of
Yochanan haMatbil(Rabbi John the Immerser), when he pointed to Yeshua by the banks of the Yarden(the Jordan River), shouting, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)
And when I take the unleavened bread and the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, I'm reminded of how Yeshua, at his last Pesach meal with His
talmidim(students, disciples), took the matsah, broke it, and said, "Take, eat; this is My Body."Of course it would have to be unleavened, since leaven is a symbol of sin, and Yeshua was sinless. The matsah reminds me that He was born in Beit Lechem (or Bethlehem), which means "house of bread" (Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1), and that He proclaimed, "I am the Bread of Life....
I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this Bread, he shall live forever.
And the Bread that I will give is My Flesh,
Which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:35 and 51)
So I must eat this matsah, this symbol of Yeshua's Body, worthily (I Corinthians 11:27), understanding fully what it symbolizes.
And when I take the third cup of wine, not coincidentally called the "Cup of Redemption", I'm reminded of how Yeshua took that same third cup, recited the b'rochah over it, and said,
"Drink from it, all of you.
For this is My Blood of the renewed covenant,
Which is shed for many
For the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:27-28)
This is the
Brit Chadashah, the Renewed Covenant, which God promised to Israel through the prophet Yiremyahu (Jeremiah 31:31); and a renewed Ketubah(marriage contract), which the Groom signified by sharing the cup of wine with His Bride.
Pesach, therefore, was the model for the Christian practice of Communion.
Yeshua commanded us to do this in memory of Him (Luke 22:19), and so I take my communion at the Passover Seder.
As an adult, it's a great blessing to understand what God is saying to me each year through the food on the Passover table. He's telling me (and the rest of the nation of Isrsael) that there is a way to eternal life. The
beytsah(the rosted egg) symbolizes this newness of life, and the resurrection of the body to eternal life with our Messiah Yeshua.
Next year in Jerusalem!
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Matthew 2:1 "When Yeshua was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi came from the east to Jerusalem,..."
I Corinthians 11:27 "Therefore, whoever eats the matsah or drinks the Lord's cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the Body and Blood of the Lord."
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Luke 22:19 "Also, taking a piece of matsah, He said the b'rocha, broke it, gave it to them and said, 'This is My Body, which is being given for you. Do this in memory of Me."
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